Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
I’m sharing this mostly because I just like holiday cards from comics publishers, whether I get them in the mail or see them on someone’s blog. But I also appreciate that this one includes three comics incons and the reminder that Fantagraphics has Christmas-related books featuring each of those characters. I’ve already mentioned Charlie Brown’s Christmas Stocking a couple of times (I have a copy and it is indeed as sweet and lovely as it looks), but didn’t realize that Nancy Likes Christmas and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: A Christmas for Shacktown are also things that exist. Gonna need at least that Donald Duck one.
– Craig Schulz, son of Charles Schulz, on the ripeness of a CGI Peanuts movie
“Yeah, the technology is right. Because pen and paper was never quite good enough.”
– Russ Fischer, commenting on the story for /Film
I get what Schulz is saying. “This film” doesn’t refer to just any Peanuts movie. There have already been at least two of those in traditional, hand-drawn animation. What he’s saying is that if they’re going to try to translate the Peanuts characters to CGI, that’s not something he wanted to rush into.
But while I’m not sure that Fischer’s snark is all that fair, I’m also not exactly sure why now is suddenly the time where technology has caught up and is adequate for portraying Charlie Brown’s round head and Lucy’s lumpy hairdo as computer animation. Is Schulz suggesting that the Peanuts CGI movie needs a level of technology greater than say, Toy Story or How to Train Your Dragon?
As explained on the Fantagraphics website, most of Charles Schulz’s creative energy went into the daily Peanuts comic strip, but he also made some special side projects featuring his famous characters. This month, the publisher is releasing a collection of two of those projects, both Christmas-themed.
The title of the collection gets its name from the earlier project, 1963’s Charlie Brown’s Christmas Stocking, a collection of 15 one-panel cartoons for Good Housekeeping. Each features Peanuts characters offering a joke or reflection on the season. The other piece is a story from a 1968 issue of Woman’s Day in which Linus and Lucy explain the meaning of Christmas to Snoopy, with the beagle offering his own opinion at the end.
Fantagraphics has created one of those cool, flip-through videos for the book, which you can see below.
No one needs to hear me speak of the virtues of Charles Schulz’ s Peanuts, one of the greatest comic strips and one of the greatest long-form narrative works of art of any medium. Plenty of much smarter people who can communicate much more clearly and cleverly than I have already done that in plenty of different places.
And the fact that so many newspapers continue to re-run old strips of Schulz’s so long after his death instead of filling that valuable (to cartoonists) space with something—anything—else is about as eloquent expression of the regard Schulz is held in as anything I could pound out in a few sentences here.
Do note that, when Schulz passed away, no descendant of his or hand-picked assistant/apprentice took over the strip for him—Peanuts not produced by Schulz was apparently judged so wrong it wouldn’t even be attempted, better to just have folks re-read older strips than attempt new ones by someone else.
That was a big part of the reason I was so shocked when Boom Studios announced a new ongoing Peanuts comic book series on their Kaboom kids imprint. They had previously produced an original graphic novel based on a new animated special which itself was pieced together from Schulz strips—last spring’s Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown—but this seemed like something pretty different. It wasn’t a media tie-in or a one-off lark project, it was going to be something rather sustained.
Did you pick up Peanuts 1 yesterday? If you love all ages books, you should have. The first issue of this ongoing KABOOM! monthly features new stories by Vicki Scott, Paige Braddock, Shane Houghton and Matt Whitlock–and original Charles Schulz stories of course. In fact, Braddock wears many hats on this project. First off, she is the creative director of Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates. Secondly Braddock (also creator of the ensemble comedy comic strip, Jane’s World) inks the stories, as well provides colors on the cover. Anytime an all ages title like this new release from the KABOOM! gang (in partnership with Peanuts Worldwide) comes out, I want to shout it from the rooftops. On a personal level, I am overjoyed to interview Braddock in this brief email interview, as I have been a fan of her work since her days many, many years ago–on staff as an illustrator at my local newspaper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As much as I wanted to interview her some about Jane’s World and The Martian Confederacy (her collaboration with Jason McNamera), I opted to make the focus of today’s interview on Peanuts. My thanks to Braddock for her time.
Tim O’Shea: Were you involved in selecting the other writers of the stories, such as Shane Houghton and Vicki Scott?
Paige Braddock: Shane Houghton was selected by Boom, but I was familiar with his other work on Reed Gunther. Shane also did some test pages for Boom and we reviewed those at the studio. I met Vicki Scott during the Happiness is a Warm Blanket graphic novel project. It’s a funny story actually… I had met her husband, Bob, who was at the time an animator at Pixar. I knew his work and contacted him about working on the graphic novel. He was pretty busy so he suggested that maybe his wife could help out. I was thinking to myself, his wife?! Then of course his wife, Vicki, turned out to be this incredibly talented artist. Since that first project, she and I have collaborated on a couple of children’s books based on the Peanuts characters. Vicki also turned out to be quite gifted at writing and capturing the “voice and tone” of these characters.
Last year around this time, Calamaties of Nature creator Tony Piro posted a pointed parody of A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was well received, but, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, it was also copied, altered and posted all over the internet without attribution.
Yesterday, Piro noted the problem:
My use of the Peanuts characters, in a comic that I drew and wrote myself, is allowed as a parody. But when people grab my art, change a few words, and label it as their own, it amounts to theft. Of course people are free to make their own parodies, but they should use their own art and writing. I could attempt to police these copies, but ultimately this is impossible to do on the internet, especially once images start spreading on social sites like Facebook.
Of course, if his appropriation of Charles Schulz’s characters is allowable as parody, couldn’t some of his imitators claim the same thing about their appropriation of Tony Piro’s comic? Semantics aside, Piro realizes the futility of trying to stop the appropriators, so his solution is to ask his readers to post his version of the comic, with attribution, in a sort of good-information-crowds-out-bad strategy. To show that he’s no Grinch, Piro will donate $1 to Doctors Without Borders for every 500 extra page views the comic gets.
And to round out this Christmas story, someone popped up in comments to apologize for unknowingly using an altered version of the comic. Of course, the trolls were there too…
Following the announcement of the creators for their new Peanuts ongoing series, BOOM! Studios has announced variant covers for the first four issues available to comics retailers as order incentives. The covers feature Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy as they first appeared in the comic strip reproduced directly from Charles Schulz’ original panel art.
The first Peanuts miniseries, which BOOM! confirmed will be published as a series of miniseries a la Hellboy, will hit stores in January. Check out the other covers after the jump.
BOOM! Studios has announced the creators for their upcoming Peanuts comic book, which will feature both new stories and reprints of strips by creator Charles Schulz.
The ongoing series, which was announced last summer as a part of their KABOOM! kids line, will feature new stories by Vicki Scott (Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown), Paige Braddock (Creative Director at Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, Jane’s World, Martian Confederacy), Shane Houghton (Reed Gunther) and Matt Whitlock. Scott and Braddock worked together on a story that appeared in #0 preview issue that was released earlier this month.
This isn’t the first time Charlie Brown and the gang have appeared in comic book form, and it isn’t even the first time they’ve appeared in comics done by someone besides creator Charles Schulz. As detailed on Comicartville.com, the Peanuts characters appeared in numerous comics in the 1950s and 1960s, some of which were reprints of newspaper strips, some new stories by Schulz and some by artists who worked for him.
“I’ve always been under the impression that Charles M. Schulz always drew and directly supervised all aspects of his strip and characters, so this was something of a surprise,” wrote Dr. Michael J. Vassallo on Comicartville.com. “From a variety of sources, I learned that these DELL issues were produced by a crew of artists working for Schulz and who did advertising artwork for him. The main artist was Dale Hale. This information has been confirmed for me by the late comic strip art collector/historian/agent Mark J. Cohen, who was gracious enough to ask Charles M. Schulz over dinner about his contribution to those Dell issues. Mr. Schulz enumerated that he did the very first one himself with Jim Sasseville doing the next few and Dale Hale doing all the rest.”
This first issue of Peanuts ships in January.
Fantagraphics sent over their list of books debuting at the San Diego Comic-Con later this month, and boy is it packed tighter than my suitcase on vacation day. The publisher will have almost two dozen new books at the show, including the last Mome; new stuff from Michael Kupperman, the Hernandez Bros. and Johnny Ryan; tons of Eurocomics; a Lou Reed/Edgar Allan Poe joint; and more. Check them out:
Love & Rockets New Stories 4 by Los Bros Hernandez: Featuring new stories by Jaime and Gilbert, including new material featuring Maggie set in the present and during her teen years.
Mark Twain’s Autobiography by Michael Kupperman: Probably the one I’ve been looking forward to the most, Kupperman publishes Mark Twain’s “biography” since the day the author/humorist died through last year — including his affair with Marilyn Monroe and his time-traveling adventures with Einstein.
Prison Pit Vol. 3 by Johnny Ryan: More deranged, twisted ultraviolent fun from Ryan.
We sometimes get so immersed in our little world of words and pictures that it can be difficult at times to remember that comics are part and parcel of the larger pop culture and, as such, could often be referenced in other medium, like films and pop songs.
With that in mind, and since I’m always fascinated by this sort of cross-pollination, I thought I’d make a quick (and by no means definitive) list of some songs based on or about some beloved comic book characters. As a self-imposed caveat, I tried to stay away from theme songs or film contributions, so as much as I love The Ramones’ version of “Spider-Man,” I’m keeping it off the list for that reason.
Oh, and don’t forget to offer you’re own picks in the comments section …
1. Evangeline by Matthew Sweet
Sure, anyone can make up a song about Superman or Wonder Woman, but if you really want to establish your nerd cred, you need to write a song about a comic book character so long-forgotten even serious fans would need ten minutes or so to scratch their heads before saying, “Oh yeah, her.” So it was with Gen X songsmith Matthew Sweet, who penned a rather plaintive paen (“as sung by Johnny Six” the liner notes helpfully tell us) to the “sexy, killer vigilante nun” created by Chuck Dixon and Judith Hunt back in the heady days of the 1980s for Comico Comics. It’s a rather irresistible song — arguably one of Sweet’s best — as the singer looks at the figure he has placed on a pedestal and begs her to forget about all that “marriage to God” nonsense and give him the time of day, at least for a little bit. The fact that it features a really killer hook doesn’t hurt matters much.
Retailing | Bankrupt bookseller Borders Group said in court papers filed Friday that it will name a stalking-horse bidder by July 1, with an eye toward completing the sale of all of its assets by the end of July. The Detroit News spotlights the two private-equity firms that have placed bids to buy at least a majority of the book chain’s 416 remaining stores: Phoenix-based Najafi Cos., which owns the Book of the Month Club, Columbia House and BMG; and Los Angeles-based Gores Group — the likely stalking-horse bidder — whose investments include Alliance Entertainment and Westwood One. [Reuters, The Detroit News]
Legal | Peanutweeter, a blog that combined frames from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts strips with real, out-of-context tweets, has been taken down by Tumblr as the result of a Digital Millennium Copyright Act complaint from Iconix Brand Group, which acquired a majority stake in the Peanuts assets last year. One blogger, however, argues the blog should be considered fair use. [RIPeanutweeter, Boing Boing]
The latest in a long line of historical comic-related auctions is coming up at Heritage Auctions‘ next event –a never-before-seen pre-Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz. Here it is:
Created in the late 40s between Schulz’ first work Li’l Folks and the debut of Peanuts in 1950, it contains characters that bear more than a passing resemblance to future Peanuts stars Charlie Brown and Snoopy. The artwork is being offered by the family of the late Frieda Rich, a lifelong friend of Schulz who served as the inspiration for the Frieda character with the famous “naturally curly hair.”
This will be one of many pieces that’ll hit Heritage Auctions’ auction block on May 5, and the organizers expect this piece to bring more than $20,000 alone.
Retailing | The financially troubled Borders Group reportedly could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as soon as today or Tuesday, setting the stage to close about 200 of its 674 Borders and Waldenbooks stores and eliminate thousands of jobs. [The Wall Street Journal]
Retailing | Diamond Comic Distributors revealed that 98 percent of the more than 500 direct market stores visited by secret shoppers during the first month of day-early delivery were found to be in compliance with the program’s street-date requirements. According to Diamond, of the 10 stores discovered to be in violation of the agreement, one was reported by another retailer while the others were discovered by secret shoppers. [ICv2.com]
Comic-Con | Badges for Comic-Con International sold out Saturday during a marathon online-registration session that taxed the servers of convention sales partner TicketLeap and frustrated ticket buyers. Four-day passes were gone by about 2 p.m. PT; the event sold out by 6 p.m. (Additional passes may become available as cancellations are processed.) As we noted earlier, San Francisco comics retailer Isotope is memorializing Saturday’s experience with a “San Diego Comic Con 2011 Registration Disaster Commemorative Fail Frog button,” featuring a modified version of the TicketLeap logo that frustrated users saw every time they refreshed their web browser.
On the TicketLeap company blog, CEO Chris Stanchak acknowledged that “our platform experienced capacity issues for a 4 hour period” on Saturday: “While we knew the event was going to put significant demand on our system, we did not expect the traffic we received. […] The traffic we received yesterday was several orders of magnitude higher than our high end estimate. Due to the heavy strain on the system, users for all events across our system received ‘Over Capacity’ errors. This prevented ticket buyers from buying tickets and it prevented event organizers from managing their events.” Tom Spurgeon offers commentary. [Comic-Con International]
Creators | Michael Cavna talks with cartoonist Art Spiegelman about being only the third American to receive the Grand Prix from the Angoulême International Comics Festival. As recipient of the honor, the 62-year-old artist will help plan next year’s festival. “I don’t know whether you should say ‘congratulations’ or ‘condolences,’ ” he says. [The Washington Post]
Legal | A Michigan judge on Monday ordered the DNA of former retailer Michael George to be compared with a hair found on the body of his wife when she was shot to death in 1990 in their comic book store. George, 50, was found guilty in March 2008 of first-degree murder, but that conviction was set aside because of prosecutorial misconduct and the possibility of new evidence. [The Detroit News]